The EL Minya, (also called EL Mina, El Minia, El Miniya or EL Miniaya) began life as a Russian built Soviet era T-43 class minesweeper. This class of minesweeper was built for the Soviet navy in the late 1940’s through to the end of the 1950’s. There were 178 ship of the class built at shipyards at Leningrad, Kerch, in Poland, and modified under license in China. 44 of these ships were exported to various countries over the years, with Egypt receiving 7 of them.
El Minya was one of four T43 ocean-going minesweepers, built in former USSR, delivered in spring 1956 as part of a $120 million arms treaty negotiated by President Nasser during a meeting in Moscow on 24th of September 1955. It is interesting to note that the T43 originally was a UK design, but the blueprints found their way to former USSR somehow…
The four T43 minesweepers delivered in 1956 were named after four different Egyptian cities: Assiout, Bahaira, Gharbia and the hometown of President Nasser himself, El Minya. After sinking, El Minya was replaced at the naval base in Hurghada by another T43 named Sinai. She, together with two more T43s was delivered in the fall of 1970. All of those T43s are now out of service and have been used for target practicing or cannibalized for spares.
Displacement: 500 tons standard, 569 tons full load
Length: 58 meters
Beam: 8.5 meters
Draught: 2.15 meters
Propulsion: diesel engines 2200 hp
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h)
Range: 3,800 nautical miles (7,037.6 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h)
Crew: 65 to 77
Armament: 4 37mm guns (2×2)
2 x 12.7mm machine guns
1 depth charge launcher
Up to 32 mines carried onboard
Sweeps MT-1 suite, Type MTSh
Loss of the El Minya
On the 6th of February 1970 four to six Israeli aircraft, probably Phantom F-4 A, or Mirage III approached Hurghada over sea from the east. Coming in at low altitude to avoid radar detection, their mission was to attack the radar station next to the airfield. At the same time, stationed at the naval base in the harbour, was the minesweeper El Minya. As it happened she was at anchor in the direct flight path of the Israeli aircraft. One or two of them were probably ordered to clear the way for the attack. El Minya’s anti aircraft guns made her a threat to the low flying aircraft as well as a prestigious target.
It was probably PHANTOM F-4A or MIRAGE III aircraft that was responsible for the attack on Hurghada. Israeli war records show that the two types were on mission over Egypt on the 6th of Feb 1970.
El Minya must have managed to escape the attack for a while. However, she was still at anchor, and eventually she reached the end of the chain. The “cat and mouse chase” was over and there was no escape. A small bomb hit her on the starboard side of the bow and the minesweeper rolled upside down. Still floating, (some sources say that she sunk and then resurfaced) she was again attacked by the Israeli aircraft, now bullets from the machine guns hit the underside of the hull and the minesweeper sunk. Landing on the superstructure El Minya lost her mast and the machine gun that was mounted in the bow. The anchor chain that she released while trying to escape the attack; is still marking her trail on the seabed.
In the beginning of 1970 the tension between Egypt and Israel was as hard as ever. In 1969 Egypt had started an “unofficial” war to recapture the Sinai Peninsula lost during the Six Day War in June 1967, and eventually of course; they wanted to eliminate the state of Israel. As a counter attack the Israeli Air force attacked deep inside Egyptian territory with the main target being industrial and military installations such as this radar station. In 1973 those attacks finally lead to the “official” Yom Kippur War.
Most of the time the mooring line is attached to the propeller axle but there is no guarantee. Since the wreck is situated in the harbour area, passing boats often cut the morning line and sometimes dive masters put the new line in the anchor, in the bow of the wreck.
The best way to dive El Minya is to start at the stern. The wreck is laying on the port side, leaning on the superstructure. From here you have a good view of the two propeller screws and rudders and then you continue on the south side over the stern deck. Here you find the big rolls of cable used to tow the torpedo-like mine sweeping devices. Before you come up to the superstructure you pass the rear anti aircraft gun and machine gun by the funnel. Close to the seabed, at the back of the superstructure you can take the opportunity to have a look into the telegraph room before passing the next two machine guns in front of the bridge. The mast was ripped off as El Minya hit the bottom and can now be found north of the wreck.
When you come up to the bow area you will find that this part of the wreck has quite a lot to offer. First there is the mount for the second anti aircraft gun. The gun fell off when El Minya rolled over and is now to be found a short distance south of the bow. In front of the gun mount you can look through the hatch into the rope room. Then there is the port side anchor chain running out over the seabed, marking the route El Minya took trying to escape the attacking Israeli aircraft.
The starboard anchor is still in place on the hull and next to the anchor you find the blast hole from where the bomb hit. This invites for a swim through and a glance into the corridor. From here you head back on the starboard side of the superstructure where you have a few doors and portholes that give you a chance to have a look at the interior of the wreck. All along the last bit you find the torpedo-like devices that were towed for mine sweeping. After a few fin kicks towards the stern you are back at the propeller and it is time to ascend.
Dive site location:
East of Hurghada Naval Base. N27°13.543′ E033°50.861′
Dive site depths:
Max 32m at the stern, 26m at the bow and 19m around the blast hole on the top of the wreck.
Dive site marine life:
There is no reef here, so do not expect a sparkling coral life, but there is a lot going on, on and around El Minya anyway. Great schools of glassfish find sanctuary in the wreck, especially in the blast hole the bomb left behind. Here you find the redmouth grouper herding his own school, protecting them from hunting jacks and lionfish. Silversides glitter around bright red sponges that reach out from the deck in the bow like giant fingers and often a grouper sits in the hatch to the rope room. To get most out of this dive you should bring a torch so you can light up the inside and get the true colours of the marine life.
Dive site conditions and hazards:
The location sometimes has bad visibility and strong current. That together with the maximum depth of 32 meters suggests that this is a dive mainly for experienced divers. It is also a good idea to keep in mind that there are sharp edges and objects to be aware of, especially around the blast hole. All over the bottom you find bits and pieces from the wreck. Do not touch anything! There is still some live ammunition spread out over the seabed. El Minya is a popular dive site and boats come and go all the time; make sure you look up during your ascend.